RANGERS refloated the 46 pilot whales about 11.30am (1330 AEDT) on Monday after they stranded themselves over the weekend.
One of the refloated whales was found dead on Tuesday morning.
DOC rangers and volunteers from Project Jonah on Tuesday finished scouring the area near where the whales beached, finding nothing to suggest they hadn’t swum out to sea.
DOC Takaka spokesman John Mason said the searches are an “encouraging indication” the whales have moved to deeper water.
“We are optimistic they may have swum out to sea but they could still be in the (Golden) bay,” he said.
If the whales are still in the bay, they could re-strand, he said. DOC is encouraging anyone who spots the whales to contact them immediately.
The pod whales have been stranded three times over the past three days.
They were first refloated at high tide on Saturday before beaching again and being refloated again on Sunday.
DOC rangers found 49 whales stranded for a third time on Monday morning – but three died before they could refloat them again on Monday.
The weekend’s strandings were the third at Farewell Spit this summer. Some have been successfully refloated but dozens either died or were put down.
Whale strandings are common on the 24-kilometre long sandspit, at the top of the South Island.
The topography is believed to confuse the whales and they often beach themselves again after being refloated.